In Part One of this interview we saw how children’s author, Kiah Thomas, got her start writing for kids, and we got to know a bit about her current and upcoming picture books. In Part two Kiah talks about working with publishers, illustrators and book promotion (or not!).
Kiah, in total, you will have four books published by the end of next year. That’s so amazing! How and when did they get picked up for publication? (PS do you have an agent?)
Thanks Debra! The first two were picked up from the slush pile in May 2017, and after some changes to one they both went to acquisitions in July 2017.
Then, over the next six months I sent my editor other manuscripts (way too many), one of which was Allergic Alpaca. It went to acquisitions in March 2018 and they decided to release it first, before the two already signed.
The next book out in the wild is Foothand Elbownose (which was one of the two I submitted to the slush pile), and it comes out in November 2019.
After that, there’s another out in April 2020, and the fourth (which is the other of the first two I submitted) doesn’t have a release date at the moment, I don’t think!
I’m sorry, that was an awfully confusing explanation! Hopefully it all makes some sort of sense if you squint a bit and turn your head sideways.
I don’t have an agent! I just submit things directly to my editor.
Ha! No need for sideways head-turning! But that’s interesting that the first accepted wasn’t the first published.
Both books this year are illustrated by Connah Brecon, who illustrated Amelia McInerney’s first picture book, The Book Chook (Amelia was one of my guests recently). What can you tell us about the illustration process? Did you have any direct Connah? Have you met him?
At the moment I think Connah is contracted for all of my books! He’s currently working on the third, which is really exciting.
The first contact I had with Connah was just after I’d seen the roughs for Allergic Alpaca – I was so excited that I messaged him on Instagram. Before that, it was really separate, apart from my editor telling me he was excited to do the books.
I was lucky enough to meet him at a Hardie Grant event earlier this year. He is fun and talented and cheeky (excellent qualities), and from the moment I met him it felt like we’d known each other for ages – I think our styles work really well together.
Since then we’ve messaged back and forth a bit on Instagram, but never really about current projects – all of that goes through our editor, because she is magic – and always has a vision about the project as a whole.
That’s amazing to have Connah for all your books, but I get it – your’e both zany and quirky – you seem to be the perfect partnership!
Tell me about your publisher – How has it been working with them and was there much editing of the manuscripts to be done?
It’s been a really different experience for each of my manuscripts. Two of them have seen very little change from first submission, but the others have gone through much more of an alteration process.
Allergic Alpaca originally started out as a book about the letter A, deciding to live somewhere different in the alphabet. It was largely conceptual, and didn’t quite work as a story. My editor really liked the idea and the writing but thought it needed a more solid character and more of a story (she was right), so we went back and forth with it quite a bit.
I love being edited. I find that once I’ve spent a while with a story it’s really hard to see it from a different perspective. It becomes so familiar that I stop noticing the things that don’t quite work. Editors are amazing at giving perspective.
I know what you mean – it’s so easy to overlook things in your own work.
What can you tell us about the upcoming books?
Foothand Elbownose, the next book to come out, is about a foot that decides it would rather be a hand. It’s pretty absurd, and really fun to read aloud to groups of kids. Connah has done such a great job with the illustrations – his characters really make the story.
The next one after that is called Madeline Talbot has a Bunny on her Head. It’s about a girl called Madeline Talbot, who has a bunny on her head. Haha!
They both sound hilarious!
I wonder if these are the only manuscripts you ever sent to the publisher, or have there been other, unsuccessful ones?
My poor, long-suffering (and lovely) editor Aly has seen way more of my manuscripts than I should’ve sent. I’m much more restrained now than I was early on. I would often send her a pile and then we would chat about which ones she liked and which ones she didn’t, which I don’t think is a normal way of doing things!
When I look back at some of the things I sent I cringe a little bit, but I’ve been unbelievably lucky to have someone who believes in me, and who is patient even when I am not.
That’s so lovely to have an editor relationship like that.
You have a communications/PR degree and you’ve been a blogger on various platforms, like Babyology. Do you think these things benefited your writing and/or being picked up for publication in any way?
I thought about giving up on my degree about every six months (and I probably should have!) – there was a lot I enjoyed about it, but it never really felt like the right thing to do. But, I loved the writing.
Then when I had kids, I found personal blogging cathartic, and did it just for the joy of writing. Freelance writing for Babyology had more structure, and I think helped me to be better at choosing the right words and at editing (I know I said I’m bad at it now – I was really really bad before).
I’m not sure if either had any impact on my first manuscripts be picked up for publication, but on a personal level it helped me feel like I had something to put in a cover letter, which helped give me confidence.
You have two small children and a newborn, so life is pretty hectic for you. The timing isn’t too great for promoting the books! Do you have any thoughts about promotion? Is this where your PR skills/networks kick in?
I am awful at this! And actually, this question mostly reminds me that I still need to make a website. Don’t take any sort of direction from me on this! But if you do have good ideas, let me know! Via the website that I hopefully will have created by the time people read this!
Ha! Well, I don’t see any sign of a Kiah Thomas website! Just goes to show, ‘author presence’ online isn’t everything!
But you can find me online, below. At right is my @story_hound Instagram account showing Archie ‘reviewing’ Allergic Alpaca.
Next month we’ll discuss the writing community, discouragement and how to deal with it, and Kiah’s top tips for writers.
You can find me atwww.debratidball.com
and on Facebook: debratidballpage
and Instagram.com/debra_tidball AND instagram.com/story_hound